Jesus

The R Word

IMG_0720.JPG

I led our leadership team in corporate repentance on Friday night.

We made it personal first: what did we each need to repent of in our own hearts? Pride, greed, offense, gossip, fill in the blank... And then we cried out for our city, our nation, and the nations of the earth as we repented on their behalf, asking God to heal our hearts and heal our land.

I love prophetic acts because they're a demonstration of humility before God, showing the enemy that we, God's people, aren't messing around. We're on the move and we're a united front. 

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

The R word, repentance, isn't sexy, but it's effective, and it only works when we choose humility. Our words, motives, and subsequently, our actions (or lack thereof) start in our hearts. It's imperative that we become aware of the conscious or subconscious meditation of our hearts (Psalm 19:14), if we want to see change in us and in our world. 

Repentance requires what I would call a turning on our behalf, yes, from our wicked ways. Now, some of us are automatically thinking of an extremely wicked person, but any partnership with the enemy's ways is wicked, and we have to choose to turn from it. Need a reference point? They can look like gossip, slander, pride, arrogance, greed, selfishness and offense, to name a few, and if we're completely honest, we probably partnered with a few of those this morning before we even started our morning commute! Go ahead, I'll give you a moment to take that post down... wink, wink. 

In Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)! But we still have to choose to walk in our true identity on a daily basis in order to keep shedding the old ways we once walked in, while intentionally putting on Christ. You were created by and for love - this is good news!

As followers of Jesus, our faith is active, not passive. We are all in a constant cycle of pruning and flourishing, pruning and flourishing. Intentionally recognizing of the state of our hearts before God is vital to personal transformation, and in turn, the transformation of communities and nations. As we continue to partner with our divine nature as new creations, we'll begin to see change all around us. 

We've got to ask ourselves what places and over what things has God given us the authority to pray? What assignment, region, workplace, family, nation, and/or people group has He brought around us and asked us to actively love? And what are we doing about it? Lofty ideas don't work here, but repentance, prayer and action will. Matthew 4:17 tells us that, as His first act after coming out of His desert testing & beginning His earthly ministry, "Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This emphasizes just how crucial the act of repentance is, not only for our personal walk, but for the kingdom of heaven coming on the earth! What do we need to turn from, and instead, turn to Jesus?  Where do we need to walk in humility and turn from pride? Pride is at the root of most of our problems. 

Repentance from self-preservation is what brings us to Jesus in the first place, and it doesn't stop on the day we begin to follow Him. It is the daily choice and act of humility that changes us and changes nations. The R word is pretty powerful.

Love, Andi 

Change Your Narrative

A friend of ours decided to celebrate their 40th birthday in Greece this summer, and when invited to come along, we jumped on that bandwagon like a teenage girl (or middle-aged mom) purchasing Bieber tickets. 

When we showed up at the airport, Paul and I got a free upgrade (not even sad!) and happily settled into our seats. While the other passengers boarded the plane, I tested out all the buttons on my remote to see just how flat my bed would go and gladly accepted all the drinks the flight attendants brought by, because it'd be rude not to!

Mid-sip of that second refreshment, a quarter of the way into my first movie, cozily tucked under my comforter with my footrest up, the lady next to us (who we'll call Negative Narrative Nancy) starts yapping about everything she could find wrong about being in business class. I mean - were we even on the same plane??

After sitting on the tarmac for about 30 minutes, the first delay notification came in, but I couldn't have cared less! I was lying down, watching a movie, and eating snacks under a comforter that I wasn't sharing with my four children. We sat on the tarmac for a good hour and a half, just 3 minutes shy from being deplaned and put on another aircraft. Luckily that didn't happen, but during the delay, Negative Narrative Nancy used business class as her stage with absolutely no need for a microphone. 

She started talking loudly. "Ugh! (deep loud breath, sigh, eye roll) The pilot needs to update us- he's not telling us what's going on! Hey lady (flight attendant), what's REALLY going on? Why are we delayed? What aren't you guys telling us? I need a Xanax."

The couple in front of Negative Narrative Nancy had their six-month-old baby, and anytime it cooed or made a peep, the woman would breathe deeply, roll her condescending brown eyes and ask if she could have a different seat in business class "AWAY from that baby". After the poor couple were bouncing their sweet baby (seriously, it was such a quiet baby - just ask me, I have four!) to keep Negative Narrative Nancy appeased, to the point of their quads and biceps giving out from muscle fatigue, good ol' Nancy turns and addresses all of business class saying,  "I can't think of anything worse!"

What?!? Lady with no children, come over here and let me sit you down. Nothing worse than a baby in business class? Negative Nancy - paaalease! I can think of a lot of worse things like... This plane going down. Snakes on the plane. My movies not working on the plane (come on, you know you're with me!) and worst of all, YOU never taking that Xanax you speak of and and continuing to talk for the rest of our time together on this airplane!

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 6.46.12 AM.png

We were in business class people! Business class! And her negative narrative was destroying the atmosphere. The funniest part of this story was that we found out later that a group of turtles mating on the runway caused our delay! Literally, turtles on the runway, which got me thinking...

Have you ever been running a meeting where someone is giving "feedback" but their tone is far from constructive and instead, full of negativity, just posing more problems with no solutions in sight? Maybe the problem is as minor as a turtle on the runway, but the meeting you were so smoothly running is now in a proper nosedive due to a negative narrative taking over. Maybe you started out solving a problem in your own personal life that feels like a minor hurdle, but then the negative nosedive in narrative you find in your own words or thoughts actually becomes the problem instead of the initial situation you faced? It's possible that you naturally operate in faith and optimism, but you're surrounded with "friends" and family who tend towards the negative, calling themselves "realists" and you've unconsciously joined the same club, not sure of who you are anymore. Maybe the pain you've walked through has consumed you, and instead of facing it and walking through it with the Healer, it's become your identity, your constant narrative.

I have found myself being Negative Narrative Nancy in the business class of life more times than I'd like to admit, destroying the atmosphere of my home, workplace and even within myself. I have come into agreement with lies, circumstance, stress and negativity, letting it dictate what I see, feel, think and in turn, what I do. 

sif-heart-meme2-shapes.jpg

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. - Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. - Proverbs 4:23 NLT

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. - Luke 6:45 NKJV

Everything I do and speak comes out of the abundance of what going on within my heart, which then determines the course of my life.

So let me ask you, on what narrative is your heart meditating? Because whatever it is, it will become your reality!

Our narrative starts in our thought life as a conscious or unconscious meditation, which, sinking down, becomes the meditation of our heart and, ultimately, our words and actions shaping our world.

I've had to be intentional to live aware of the negative or positive narratives playing out in my life. Sometimes I'm overreacting to turtles on the runway, and other times, I'm facing legitimate pain, trouble, trial, and problems in need of solutions. She Is Free: Learning The Truth About The Lies That Hold You Captive is an honest glimpse into my heart while on the journey of changing my negative narrative - a journey which I'm still on today and want to share with you. It’s messy, it’s real, but most of all, it’s wrapped in the Love of a Savior that has set me free in deeper ways than I ever imagined and continues to do so on a daily basis.

It's imperative that we take authority over our negative narrative, because it changes the course of our story here on earth, and this spills out into the lives of others. There are people out there that need your story. People on the other side of your wrestle for freedom that will thank you for bringing the Good News of what Jesus has done in you and for you, because He can and will do it for them too. 

Will you join me on the freedom journey?

My NEW book She Is Free is now available for pre-order. Plus you will receive amazing FREE bonuses if you pre-order by October 3!

Seen or Significant?

Do we want to be SEEN and validated publicly or SIGNIFICANT, even if only anonymously?

Both, probably. I mean, who doesn't want to make a difference in this life while having people tell them along the way that they're doing an awesome job? Oh, and whoever "they" are - they can feel free to tell other people too!

I was sitting at LaGuardia Airport last week at my gate, worship filling my ears while reading my Bible, when an unlikely verse jumped out at me:

Matthew 26:18 NIV "He (Jesus) replied, Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" 

A certain man.

No name, no fanfare, nothing about his apparent relationship or background with Jesus, yet extremely significant. He was named in history but didn't make a name for himself.  He was known by the Teacher, and that was enough.

This certain man's house was where the Lamb had His last supper to fulfill the Passover - death passing over life - the life we all need to truly live was within His blood and the final sacrifice about to take place, once and for all. This certain man's house was the place of communion before the crucifixion. Did this man know who Jesus really was? Was he a Pharisee, a teacher of the law that connected the dots and realized that "the Teacher" was the Messiah that they - Israel - had been waiting for? Had he & Jesus met on several occasions, so many times so that at the mention of "the Teacher", this "certain man" offered up His home to be the location for a significant moment on the road to the cross? 

What we do know is that at the mention of His name, this man opened the doors of his home. At the request of the Teacher, he didn't hold back. It also appears that he didn't push for his name to be written down somewhere so that history could remember him for his great hospitality during what seemed to be a covert mission, harboring a controversial figure in his household for one of the most significant meals of all time. This man was audacious and obedient. He made room for Jesus - literally.

So, am I making room for Jesus, or for myself?

I have gone through seasons of wanting to be seen, validated and known by the multitudes. I have wanted my ego stroked and my gifts validated. I have wanted to be seen with the cool kids (whoever they are) and the right crowd (again, whoever they are) to feel a sense of importance. I have had positions of authority and the things of this world that I thought made me a significant person taken from me. I have fallen off of my pedestal more times then I'd like to admit and have crawled back onto it like a moth to a flame, while gripping it for dear life, hoping that standing on it would make me feel better again - even if just for a fleeting moment. All of these things point to a deep longing in me to be seen, known and loved. These places in my heart can only be healed and validated by Jesus.

If the Teacher comes to me and asks me to open up my home and life for a significant purpose, would I do it? Or do I first need to post about it, be seen doing it and therefore negate the power of its beautiful, anonymous significance in all its ordinary glory? What if history were only to record a moment where "a certain woman" opened her home to the lost, disenfranchised, broken and hurting? Or where a "certain woman" loved her husband and children well? What if that's it? Or what if there is nothing at all? Am I content with NO historical mention of my life after I leave this earth? No St. Andi Andrew day for the public to remember my greatness? Am I okay with that? Some days, yes, but some days... no.

The truth is, deep down, the older I get, the more I simply want to be known intimately and loved unconditionally by the One. This means not always being seen or known by the multitudes. Can we be truly known and loved by the multitudes anyway? Spoiler alert - no. 

Are we content to be un-named in history, but still significant in it? There is so much peace that comes when we realize how deeply known and loved we are. Striving falls to the wayside and a holy satisfaction descends upon our hearts and lives. When I am truly known by the One, I can be used for significant moments and often unseen purposes because I trust His direction and plan for my life. What's so beautiful (and painful at times) is that in this life that is a long obedience in the same direction, my motives are constantly checked and purified along the way. 

So, let's take a moment and ask our hearts, "Do I want to be significant, even in anonymity, or do I want to be seen and validated publicly?"

"God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I'm walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways - the path that brings me back to you." - Psalm 139:23-24 The Passion Translation
Source: www.andiandrew.com

Do I Even Need To Go To Church?

IMG_0330.JPG

I’ve been in church my whole life. Some of you who are familiar with my story know that, when I was a child, parts of our journey had devastating effects on my family. I’ve also been hurt more than once in the church as an adult, and have personally journeyed alongside my husband and family towards discovering what church truly is. I’ve wanted to quit more than once, both as a church-goer and as a woman in ministry. But I’ve stayed. I’ve kept at it. I believe in the power of the local church, not because it is perfect, but because Jesus loves and believes in the Church, and calls us to both build the Church and be the Church. I’ve given this quite some thought, and I want to share with you, both from Scripture and from my journey, about why I’ve stayed and continue to build the Church with passion.

What’s The Point?

Many times people don’t quit Jesus- they quit the church and its imperfect people. However, I believe that we as a people have lost our "WHY" for "temple worship", and it's meant to be simply this: to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. 

"11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV

Corporate gatherings, Sunday services, and the like, no matter how big or how small they are, if they're held in a YMCA, someone's home or a state-of-the-art auditorium, are all about EQUIPPING the SAINTS (simply put, followers of Jesus) to go out and DO the work of the ministry. To be UNIFIED in faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

You may be thinking, "I can get just as equipped, if not more, reading a book at home on my own on Sundays rather than at a church service." Now, that may be true, but our gathering together goes beyond just equipping.

Can we do things like be equipped and worship outside of a church setting? Yes, and we should do those things,  but Hebrews 10:24-25 cannot happen if we do this alone, "24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Gathering together is for more than just equipping; it's for worship, encouragement, and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. It's for being a part of something bigger than yourself, for a purpose that resonates beyond yourself, for being a part of a community that will value you and, for better or worse, see you for who you are and push you to become an even better version of yourself, a.k.a. more like Christ.

When we isolate ourselves, we can become self-centered, seeking our own desires while spouting our own ideas before seeking understanding in a multitude of wisdom. 

1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.
2 A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart. - Proverbs 18:1-2 NKJV

Jesus didn't isolate; He had intentional solitude. Isolation is self-protection from society, whereas solitude is preparation for society. We have to know the difference. 

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’re probably aware that corporate church gatherings aren’t all about you - they’re about being equipped to spread the Gospel to others. Lately, I've observed that there are multitudes of disgruntled millennials (to be clear, not all millennials), as well as hurt, angry and bored church-goers of every age that are dissatisfied with the "monotony" of going to church on Sundays. Recently, I have had one too many conversations with people that are saying, "I'm just not sure I believe in going to church on Sundays because I am the Church wherever I go." 

Of course WE ARE THE CHURCH wherever we go, but we cannot miss the integral part of gathering corporately in community. Sure, if Sundays have become the mark of "Christianity" for you, then you've been sold a watered-down Gospel. Go and read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the book of Acts all over again to see what we as followers of Jesus are all about. We're not simply "Sunday church-goers."

Before you throw Sundays (or gathering as the church corporately) out like a baby with the bathwater, consider its purpose in serving the body by preparing us to live out the Gospel in our daily lives.

As of late, I've been having great discussions with our good friends Tyler and Hannah Pines, sparked by having them look through the doctrine in my coming book, to be released this Fall. In a recent email discussion, Tyler wrote this powerful statement pointing to the "why" for corporate gathering:

The purpose of the Church, therefore, is not to save the world. That is the mission of the saints, who have been given the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Cor 5:19-20). The purpose of the church is to equip the saints (Eph 4:11-13), to gather to stir each other in love and good works (Heb 10:24-25), and to worship God corporately in spirit and truth, as in the days of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11, John 4:24). - Tyler Pines

New believers and followers of The Way in the book of Acts were so desperate to be equipped and discipled that they gathered corporately in the temple DAILY and in each other's homes. 

It Was BOTH-AND

"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 EVERY DAY THEY CONTINUED TO MEET TOGETHER IN THE TEMPLE COURTS. THEY BROKE BREAD IN THEIR HOMES AND ATE TOGETHER WITH GLAD AND SINCERE HEARTS, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." - Acts 2:42-47 NIV (Emphasis added)

The "temple model", if you will, is simply an opportunity for believers to be equipped. It is not the whole picture, but it is a fundamental part of it.

We gather corporately (Sundays, worship nights, prayer nights, conferences, etc.) to be equipped by the apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists. For Jesus, this was from a boat on the lake so His voice would carry to the multitudes, going to the temple (as was His custom - Luke 4:16-21) and reading from the Torah or from a mountainside; really anywhere a crowd could gather and hear His voice. He created spaces for people to hear about the Kingdom of Heaven. After Jesus died, rose again, and had ascended to the right hand of the Father, they didn't destroy the temples and tell everyone to stop meeting there; they continued to use the space to gather so that new converts could be equipped to be followers of Jesus. We also see that they would then break bread in each others homes to disciple others and become disciples; it didn't just happen in the temple. Every day of the week, they had countless opportunities, as do we, to carry the Kingdom of Heaven living within to their every sphere of influence from neighbors to workplaces, to their own families, to the grocery store and beyond. 

But What About Discipleship?

Let's not be fooled. Discipleship is a slow burn over a lifetime, through every season, in loving community, coming in from countless facets. It’s not just a hot topic; it’s for a lifetime. We are never "perfect disciples" of Jesus. There is always more to learn and do. Just look at Jesus, and how He lived life intimately with 12 people over three years, and all the ways in which they learned from Him. They watched Him preach, teach the Torah and prophesy in the temple. They had front row seats to His life, often scratched their heads, gleaned from Him, were challenged by Him, listened to Him speak to the multitudes and also have time for the one. They watched Him heal, deliver and make whole the least of these. They were activated in their faith, but also confronted and challenged in their unbelief. And when He ascended, He left it to His disciples to do what He had modeled for them -  to continue to be taught by the Holy Spirit and to disciple others in "The Way". 

In our modern-day context, activation of our faith should be taking place all the time within community. If we're equipped on Sundays, then what are we going to do to activate what we've learned? Activation can take place in our own time with God, in small group/discipleship settings, corporate gatherings, and as we do life together as Followers of Jesus. There was fluidity to the way Jesus discipled; it was all-encompassing. Sundays can be a part of that, if you take what you learned and do something with it, but that's entirely up to you.

We Are One

We are ONE body with different functions. If we could stop talking about who's right and who's wrong when it comes to "styles" or "models" of church, and actually just start doing the work of the ministry, we'd start to see more of His Kingdom bring light into the darkness. If we could stop comparing ourselves amongst ourselves and actually start loving one another, we'd begin to see a lot more unity in the church. If we could open our eyes and see that we are all ONE body with many DIFFERENT parts, whether we execute the Gospel through the equipping and making of disciples in a house church, mega church, underground church or community church, we'd get a lot more done. We'd stop hurting one another, and instead, learn from each other.

Often, when we’ve been hurt in the church or disagree with they way someone else expresses the local church in their setting, we can swing our beliefs to align with another extreme. The problem with extremes is that we begin to live in reaction to what we don't like instead of being led by the Holy Spirit into everything we ourselves are called to, without judgment of others and their method of spreading the Gospel. 

So What Is The Fruit Of Your Life?

Dad and Mom baptizing Giles. 

Are people becoming disciples? Are they being transformed around you and walking in their identity? Are they discipling others? Are you being transformed and walking in your identity? Are the lost coming home? Are you seeing signs, wonders and miracles following those who believe? If you can answer "yes" to all of the above, then great! Keep lifting up your eyes and stay about your Father's business in the lane to which He's called you.

Meet together, however and wherever you may gather as a church - movie theaters, homes, gymnasiums, parks, schools, beaches, rooftops, warehouses, state-of-the-art auditoriums, and the like. It doesn't really matter as long as the Gospel is being preached and people are doing life together in the "slow burn" of the discipleship journey, and we are finding ourselves, and others, becoming more like Christ and transforming society as we see the Day He comes again approaching.

“19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV

Brain Tumors & Joy - "When Joy Gets In The Way"

I kept thinking to myself, "She must be faking it? I mean come on, you can't have an inoperable brain tumor and be so full of life and joy!"

My mother-in-law has stopped me in my tracks on several occasions and in this season, it's her contagious joy and peace that she lives enveloped in that often has me scratching my head in wonder. At first I thought it was avoidance, but now I see that it's a life connected to LOVE. I've asked her to write about it as a guest here on my blog. I hope it encourages you in this holiday season as we all look to 2017 and the year is to come. 

"When Joy Gets In The Way" By Jenny Andrew

The word joy is mentioned 815 times in the NIV version of the Bible. Just this fact alone makes the word significant
I was born Jennifer Joy. "Joy" was my last name or "surname" as we say in Australia where I grew up. It WAS my name, and although I was often teased as a little girl for the full label of "Jennifer Joy" or "Jenny Joy" as I was most often known, I wasn't aware of the potential significance of my name until recently. I began to see that my name was no accidental choice, that it was given to me for a purpose. Of course, when God is part of a decision, the potential of that decision is loaded with purpose. 

You see, I have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It has been described as being "like an octopus wrapped around the left side of my brain". This should, in most circumstances, instill fear and sadness in me. However my overwhelming emotions, and those of my husband, have been peace and joy. Occasional the blanket of peace is ruffled, but most of the time I feel covered and enveloped by peace. As well as the peace we are covered in, my "platform" for all I do now, especially in my fight for complete healing, is to choose "joy" as my weapon of choice before I chose to do anything or react in any way. It has become, not merely my name, but the banner over my life.
Joy may seem like an unlikely weapon. When we think of weapons, we generally think of aggression, fighting or inflicting injury. But as a Christian, I can assure you that JOY is all of these and more. Firstly, Satan hates joy. When he sees we are living in joy, he flees as he knows where joy comes from - God. When he sees me living in peace it reminds him that he has already lost the battle and we belong to Jesus! Secondly dealing with a challenge is so much simpler when my heart is in a good place and I'm looking at the best rather than the worst.  Although this season has brought its challenges, and will undoubtedly bring more, the joy and the peace continue. Recently I was speaking about my journey through this illness to a group at our Church and what I was learning along the way. I had my "notes" and my "plan" but it became increasingly clear as I continued, that I was to talk about living in JOY and using it as a weapon. This was not something I had planned to talk about at length - but JOY got in the way! 
We are surrounded every day by what the world sees- wherever we live, with worst case scenarios, doom and gloom, and negativity. There's a lot to be said for living in reality and it's important that we do so and don't bury our heads in the sand, but let's bring some light to the darkness by using joy, hope and peace to every situation. 

So there you have it. She LIVES this stuff. I heard someone say last week, "If the joy of the Lord is your strength, don't let Satan steal your strength." Well, Jenny is walking in that strength in spite of her circumstance and diagnosis and I'm still over here scratching my head at times while learning so much along the way. 

When something get's in our way, usually it has a negative connotation, especially when it's associated with fear, doubt or obstacles. When joy keeps inturpting you, invite the inturrption rather than pushing it away. Let joy get in the way.

My prayer for you in this season of your life, no matter the reality, darkness, pain or loss that you face is that JOY will keep getting in the way.

P.S. On top of her contagious JOY, my mother-in-law has been writing beautiful music in this season. It's perfect for your meditations or quiet times and is straight from heaven. Download it here!

http://www.jennyandrewmusic.com/ or look up Jenny Andrew Tranquil Worship and Tranquil Worship Two on iTunes! 

 

 

Chaos, Community & The Power Of The Table

I woke up last Wednesday in the middle of the night at my hotel in Nashville to the news that Trump has won the election. I didn't have any extreme emotions whatsoever because immediately my mind and heart went to the people God has called Paul and I to pastor, love and come alongside at Liberty Church. I placed both hands over my heart and began to ponder - how can we come alongside our people at this time? Father, what does your heart say in this day and age to your people? How can we lead with wisdom, truth and love? How can we create safe spaces for people to be transformed, and then go out and bring transformation as followers of Jesus Christ?

I came home and asked my husband if we could swap our rostered positions this month so I could speak to our church instead of him on Sunday, as I felt I had a word in season for our people. (You can listen to the message here or watch it here - I believe it may really help you.) These last few weeks reminded me that cultivating true community and making disciples - true followers of Jesus Christ with a free will - isn't neat and tidy. It's messy yet beautiful and totally worth it.

True Community WITH Unity Can Be Messy

Pastor Cedric speaking with my husband Paul

Pastor Cedric speaking with my husband Paul

Pastor Cedric C. Johnson, a good friend of my husband's who also wrote a book entitled, Race, Religion, and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age (Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice), came and spoke alongside my husband Paul at our "Race, Justice and Unity, A Liberty Family Conversation" that we hosted last month. Amongst many other things, he spoke about the four stages to true community. 

I will break down these stages in my own words alongside reflections from that evening.

Stage 1: Pseudo Community

Oftentimes, we comfortably and often unknowingly remain at this stage, not letting our guard down with one another, while living internally (and sometimes externally) isolated lives, even when others are physically in our midst. This is where we self-protect and preserve. 

Stage 2: Chaos

Chaos is not something we naturally want to embrace. The moments, seasons, interactions or world events that bring chaos in our lives, cause our guards to come down with one another while exposing the state of our hearts. These are the moments where our beliefs are exposed and confronted. Where disunity is seen, felt, and wrestled with. These are the times when relationships are tested and solidified, or tested and broken down. These are the moments where our bias and pre-conceived ideas are often brought into question by someone else's point of view. These moments, seasons and interactions can cause us to look at our own hearts and search them in partnership with Father God, or they can cause us to abort mission and go back into self-protection mode. Often in a church setting, this causes us to either put our roots down, look each other in the eye and build together with an understanding that every life is in desperate need of God's grace and that we're all on a steep learning curve, OR it can cause us to go and look elsewhere for another imperfect church. 

Stage 3: Emptying

This is where we arrive at relationship with no agenda. Where we learn to continuously lay our lives down just as Jesus did (John 15:12-14, Matthew 16:24-25, 1 John 3:16). It's a place where we come to understand others and not always have the insatiable need to be understood. It requires humility and the ability to let others speak and be heard. It requires confrontation and conversation paired with truth AND love.

Stage 4: True Community

Oh, we say we want the real thing, but the real thing can be messy, just like marriage can be messy and full of chaos. I choose my husband every day, people, just like he chooses me! "In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer..."  I once heard Pastor Chris Hodges of Highlands Church in Alabama say, "Love's not a ditch you fall into; we choose to love one another." It couldn't be more true with our neighbor, our community, our spouse, our friends, our kids, and those we don't understand and even disagree with. The real thing isn't always nice and neat, but it's oh so worth it!

The Power of The Table in True Community

The book of Acts is just that - a collective of people not just speaking (a.k.a. just putting quotable quotes on social media without putting their hands to anything) but acting on and doing the good work of the Gospel day in and day out.

I love Acts 2 -  specifically the beauty of the Church as she emerged on the earth after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the gift of Holy Spirit. The Church that we are all an extension of, playing our part, building together in our unique places and spheres here on the earth. Their devotion, their outright passion, coupled with tangible signs, wonders and miracles following those who believed is confronting. Their hunger to learn and to be together, breaking bread, praying and sacrificing to meet each others needs is inspiring. The sincerity, the joy, the favor and salvation - it is breathtaking! This is HIS Church. 

The Fellowship of The Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:42-47 NIV
andiandrew.com

This passage mentions breaking bread twice. Why, you ask? Is it because bread is SO good? Well, yes - we all love carbs even if we don't like to admit it in this gluten-free, Paleo day and age we live in, but beyond that, it's the picture of the table - the beauty of gathering around a meal while prayer and connection take place, coupled with an excitement to discover more of who Jesus IS in our lives TOGETHER.

I have to imagine that most of these people that we read about in Acts who gathered in the temple courts daily didn't get to meet or come in contact with Jesus before He ascended to the Father. Because of this, their sheer desperation to devote themselves to the apostles' teaching, to connect with one another, dig in, learn, grow, and pray together is palpable - it was necessary. They needed each other. And we still need each other.

This Hasn't Changed.

Connection, chaos, truth, love, a good meal, savoring life and new-found revelation happen at the table. A desire to go out and bring others to the table happens as we discover the joy of coming together in our diversity and differences. It's at the table where Jesus is the center, leveling the playing field as we empty ourselves to come and hear each other, understand each other, lovingly challenge each other with truth and love, giving our lives to each other. It's a place where we commune with Him, and with one another. There is so much power at the table. And when we get up from the table it's then time to put into practice what we've talked about. To be doers of the word, not just hearers. It's time to put our hands to the good work of building together, loving our neighbor, speaking up for injustice and bringing the good news of Jesus love to all we meet.

Remember, love is a choice - it's not a ditch you fall into. Love requires us to lay down our lives daily. Love doesn't stop at the table, it moves us to action. Where there is new understanding, there is also new responsibility.